Cap Enhancing Amendment Rejected
Special Report - May 25, 2010
Today, the North Carolina House voted against a measure that would have allowed charter schools in North Carolina that have been designated as schools of excellence to open additional campuses without those campuses counting towards the arbitrary cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. Rep. Laura Wiley (RGuilford) offer Amendment 3 to SB 704Reform Low-Performing Schools, which would have incorporated most of the contents of HB 856Modify Charter School Law and would have allowed those charters that have been recognized by the State Board of Education as schools of excellence to expand to serve more students without requiring an additional charter to be awarded by the Board, during debate on the floor of the House. SB 704 offers four options for schools and local boards to employ to adjust continually low-performing public schools in the state. The bill is intended to garner more points on the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funds for innovation in education. More detail on SB 704 can be found in our previous story.
The Wiley amendment was ruled out of order by the Speaker of the House, Joe Hackney (DOrange), because the bill’s page-long title did not leave room for an amendment that would add more options from which schools could choose. The House has a rule that a bill’s title may not be amended on the floor and any amendment that would require a change in title is considered out of order. A motion to suspend the rules in order for the body to be able to consider the amendment failed on a 5161 vote.
During debate on the motion to suspend the rules, various members of the House, who sat on the Education committee through which the bill had come, pointed out that the bill was drafted only hours before the committee meeting, offering little to no time for members or constituents to consider or offer opinions on the bill. Rep. Rick Glazier (DCumberland) told the House that stakeholders including various teacher, principal, superintendant, and school groups had been involved in a multi-week negotiation process to draft the bill. Rep. Paul Stam (RWake) argued, “the stakeholders who weren’t consulted are the tens of thousands of kids who are on waiting lists for charters, and the tens of thousands of parents” whose kids are on waiting lists for admittance to the state’s 98 charter schools. Rep. Johnathan Rhyne (RLincoln) argued, “the only reason [to not suspend the rule] is to stay in lock-step with the rule,” since “a minority of members of [the House] are on the education, so this rule keeps the majority of the body from offering an amendment on this bill” in an “attempt to better” it. Rep. Curtis Blackwood (RUnion) argued that by not suspending the rules in order to allow consideration of Wiley’s amendment, members of the House were “saying that not allowing an exemption to the rules is better than doing what is best for our children,” who would benefit from more options in education.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, “to be a School of Excellence, a school must meet or exceed its growth goals and have 90 percent or more of its student scores at grade level or above.” Currently, 12 of the 98 charter schools in North Carolina (12 percent) have been classified by the State Board of Education as schools of excellence. Under the proposed amendment, these schools would have been eligible to expand without requiring another charter to be awarded had they chosen to pursue such expansion. Currently, any charter school that seeks to start another campus must apply for a new additional charter for that school. In contrast, 122 of the 2,555 traditional public schools in North Carolina (4.7 percent) qualify as schools of excellence. In total, nearly 10 percent of the schools of excellence in the state are charter schools that cannot serve additional students at secondary campuses due to the arbitrary cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. However, charter schools comprise less than one-half of one percent of the public schools in North Carolina.
A subsequent amendment by Rep. Paul Stam (RWake) passed to clarify that schools that choose to employ the restart model, which allows a school to operate “with the same exemptions from statutes and rules as a charter school” would not count toward the state’s cap, and thereby take away the opportunity for private groups to apply for and receive public charters to start schools.
SB 704 passed second reading by a 6845 vote and is scheduled for a final vote on the House floor May 26, and will then be sent back to the Senate for consideration.
Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council said about the effort: "It is a sad day when a formerly bipartisan effort that led to the creation of charter schools in our state has become a highly charged issue with no room for compromise. The education establishment has dug in its heels on this issue and seem to have the political muscle to prevent the charter school cap from raisingeven by allowing the best of the best charter schools to expand. There is no valid public policy reason for this, and quite frankly, it is a crying shame that thousands of parents who so badly want a good education for their children, are denied the right to place their child in a charter school simply because a majority of legislators cower in fear before the teachers union."
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